M. Priet
Presentation by M. Gérard Priet,
Société en France des S.A.R,
at the tomb of
Chevallier de Ternay
during Celebration of the 225th Anniversary of General Rochambeau’s Landing in Newport, RI, 9 July 2005.

We are here in front of the tomb of the Chevalier de Ternay. Like several thousand of his compatriots, he died in America for a noble cause. The wreath just laid by the French society of the sons of the American revolution is a mark in memory of his sacrifice.

This morning, at the Rochambeau Statue, many things have been said upon this combined operation which implied Navy, Army, Artillery, Cavalry and led to the victory of Yorktown. This magnificent event in which two nations have combined their forces has been made possible because of the capability of remarkable people such as Washington, Rochambeau, de Grasse. This has been described this morning and in particular during the speech of Mr Lévitte, French Ambassador to the United States.

I would like here to underline that, in these commemorations one actor has been very often forgotten: his Majesty Louis XVI, king of France. Without him nothing could have be done, without him nothing would have been achieved.

Some of people would say that this revolutionary war was the opportunity to the French king to have some revenge from the disastrous last war between France and England.
In fact, Louis XVI, who was only three years older than La Fayette was not prompted by a feeling of hatred nor by any feeling of revenge.
A Christian, he was fully convinced that a balance between nations should be kept for the benefit of all. The British hegemony on seas was preventing this equilibrium. Louis XVI waited until a challenging naval force could be operational and then decided to release his forces to stop the naval British hegemony.
This war was a war on all continents. Louis XVI sent of course army and navy to America to help the insurgents but he also sent forces to Spain, Gibraltar and Minorca, to Africa, Senegal, to the West Indies where many islands were conquered, to India where Suffren won many victories against the British Navy.

Yorktown has been a very important and decisive victory, but wouldn't have been sufficient to force the English to accept the independence of the United States. The vision of Louis XVI consisting of fighting on all possible theatres of operation, Europe, America, Africa, Asia, permitted the independence of the USA, but also a new world balance. So this is why the importance of the part of the French King Louis XVI should be remembered.

God bless America; vive la France!

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Page posted 8 September 2005; revised 26 August 2007.